Saturday, 25 June 2016


“A boat at midnight sent alone to drift upon the moonless sea, a lute, whose leading chord is gone, a wounded bird, that hath but one imperfect wing to soar upon, are like what I am, without thee…” - Thomas Moore

Sylvius Leopold Weiss (12 October 1687 - 16 October 1750) was a German composer and lutenist. Born in Grottkau near Breslau, the son of Johann Jacob Weiss, also a lutenist, he served at courts in Breslau, Rome, and Dresden, where he died. Until recently, he was thought to have been born in 1686, but recent evidence suggests that he was in fact born the following year.

Weiss was one of the most important and most prolific composers of lute music in history and one of the best-known and most technically accomplished lutenists of his day. He was a teacher to Philip Hyacinth, 4th Prince Lobkowicz, and the prince's second wife Anna Wilhelmina Althan. In later life, Weiss became a friend of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and met J.S. Bach through him.

Bach and Weiss were said to have competed in improvisation, as the following account by Johann Friedrich Reichardt describes: “Anyone who knows how difficult it is to play harmonic modulations and good counterpoint on the lute will be surprised and full of disbelief to hear from eyewitnesses that Weiss, the great lutenist, challenged J. S. Bach, the great harpsichordist and organist, at playing fantasies and fugues.”

Sylvius Weiss' son Johann Adolph Faustinus Weiss succeeded him as a Saxon court lutenist.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, after almost 200 years of neglect, the work of Weiss began to be rediscovered. Now, most of his solo sonatas (there are nearly a hundred of them) are available on CD. His ensemble works, which for the most part have survived only in the lute part, have now been reconstructed. As recently as 2004, a sensational finding was made in the archives of the Harrasch family, with the discovery of a complete Weiss lute duo and lute trio in manuscript.

Here is Michel Cardin playing on the Baroque lute three suites for solo lute by Weiss:
Suite No 1 in F major; Suite No 2 in D major and Suite No 3 in G Minor. These are from the so-called “London Manuscript”.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely way to spend a Sunday on a very cold winter's afternoon under a fur rug cosy by the fire listening to this with a nice cuppa and a piece of ginger cake with clotted cream.

    On behalf of all the sybarites I thank you Nicholas.:)